"Haunted Marriage," by Clark E. Barshinger, Lojan E. La Rowe, and Andres Tapia (InterVarsity, 192 pp.; $10.99, paper). Reviewed by Stefan Ulstein, a freelance journalist based in Bellevue, Washington. His new book," Growing Up Fundamentalist: Journeys in Legalism and Grace" (InterVarsity), has just been published.

One afternoon, after four years of turbulent marriage, Andres Tapia found his wife curled up in a corner, nauseated, terrified, and utterly defeated. Her mood swings had bottomed out. A victim of childhood sexual abuse, Lori Tapia had been unable to keep the lid on the cauldron of evil that had scarred her deepest soul. Unable to trust her husband's love, fearful and sometimes repelled by sexual intimacy, she seemed at times to be deliberately driving him away. He felt that he could do nothing right.

Andres Tapia strove mightily to avoid conflict, took offense when his wife's anger and rage were directed toward him, and generally bungled it. The Tapias are not unique. Many marriages (including my own) have been haunted by the evil of childhood sexual abuse, and few husbands are equipped to stay the course without help.

In "Haunted Marriage," Andres Tapia provides the narrative line, sharing vignettes from the early years of his marriage through the five-year ordeal of therapy and spiritual renewal. Psychotherapists Clark E. Barshinger and Lojan E. La Rowe follow up with case studies and practical advice. It is a well-conceived and thoughtfully executed approach that will be enormously helpful to people struggling in haunted marriages.

Spouses of abuse victims will recognize the scenarios: the wife who dreads certain rooms, or a particular touch that subconsciously reminds her of a hellish past. In a section on "shadowboxing," the authors explain that much of the turmoil in haunted marriages comes from the survivor's need to gain control over her life. Since the abuse issues are unresolved, perhaps even unnamed, she strikes out at the spouse who inadvertently triggers the emotions she has sought to keep buried.

It may be no accident that certain men marry abuse victims. The unconscious impulses behind such choices, which may include the need to support a vulnerable woman, are best addressed in therapy. "Haunted Marriage" nonetheless offers invaluable insights, showing the ways that husbands can compound the hurt.

The basic premise of this unflinching volume is that Christian marriage works best with a "no-exit" vow. We fall in love for many reasons, most of which are emotional. God then begins a work in us. In a heartfelt epilogue, Lori Tapia says, "One man's evil became translated into an assumption on my part of evil intent from everyone I met or knew. The abuser's evil spread a curtain of death over my life that colored everything and everyone I saw."

Yet the torturous five-year process, which seemed as though it would never end, produced a stronger, more vibrant marriage than either spouse could have imagined. Andres Tapia saw the vivacious young woman he married become an angry, fearful, broken girl as she crumbled under the weight of her abuse. By walking with her through the path to renewal, he saw her change into the partner, soulmate, and lover God created her to be, and in the process, he grew in ways he could not have imagined.


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